If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I'm a major foodie, and I am always looking for great food in Prague. I especially love to discover new restaurants so that I have another interesting place on my list when planning an evening out in the city. But like many of us, I'm a creature of habit, and I love to return again and again to my old tried-and-true places. So occasionally it happens that I miss a wonderful new entry on the Prague dining scene, and I have recently discovered that I have overlooked such a place.
Last week I had the pleasure of dining at Kalina Restaurant. I can't believe that I missed this new star. Under the fine direction of Chef Miroslav Kalina, this restaurant serves up some of the most inventive and interesting dishes in Prague, all expertly prepared from the best ingredients available, sourced both locally and internationally.
Chef Miroslav Kalina at his restaurant
a new take on czech cuisine
And if you want to try Czech cuisine without the heaviness it is sometimes known (or infamous) for, Kalina specializes in the recent gastronomy trend called The New Prague Cuisine: modern interpretations of old Czech classic dishes and ingredients.
The restaurant's location only a few steps from old town Square is also a welcome break from the many tourist traps serving overpriced bad Czech food or the ubiquitous pizza. And while Kalina is not cheap because it is a fine dining establishment (though it does have a very affordable lunch menu), it manages to combine a local, casual feel with a somewhat formal service and decor. This combination is a rare find in old town these days. Kalina's website says it best:
Our "Genuinely and purely designed interior without any pretentiousness offers nothing less than thoughtful simplicity and a pleasant atmosphere. The real luxury is actually waiting for you on your plate and inside your wine glass."
a local place in touristy old town
On the night I visited, the restaurant was filled with a well-blended combination of both local and visiting clientele. I felt as if I were in a local neighborhood rather than the tourist mecca that Old Town has become. I'm not knocking tourists or tourism - I think they are great and good for Prague in many ways, and, of course, my business is based on tourism. But Old Town in particular has lost some of its "local" feel, and it seems like we locals rarely go there to dine anymore. Kalina felt like an exception to this rule.
The evening began with an outstanding glass of champagne. It sparkled with flavor yet was incredibly dry, and it went perfectly with the small taster that was served complements of the chef. After choosing appetizers and a main dish, the restaurant's staff offered excellent input and recommended perfect pairings of wine with each dish.
a place for wine
Speaking of wines, not only is Kalina's wine list extensive and filled with excellent Czech and imported wines, mainly from France but other countries too, but it also has one of the most extensive lists of wines by the glass that I have come across in Prague. This is an important feature, as, unfortunately, the custom for most Prague restaurants is still to offer the best wines by the bottle only and a very limited choice of mediocre to bad wines by the glass.
The importance Kalina places on wine is summed up thus:
"The strong emphasis on the best quality wine list makes Kalina restaurant the right place for gourmets and wine lovers. Our wine collection is built mainly on Champagne and other wines from the best European wineries."
And to add the final touch on great wines, each wine is served in the perfect type of glass from expert glass maker Riedel (which, incidentally, began its operations in the historic Czech lands).
a great way to start
For a starter I had the Marinated Scottish salmon “label rouge” with citrus skin and pink caviar. This was followed by the chef's signature dish, roasted breast of duck with fennel, caramelized kumquat and almond croquettes. My dining companion tried the cocktail of Kamchatka crab with avocado and green apple followed by the USDA strip loin prime beef with red wine sauce. I might add that it was incredibly difficult to finally arrive at our choices given the enticing offers on Kalina's menu.
The salmon was superb, with a firm, juicy texture and a rich taste that was set off by the caviar. The chef's modern version of classic crab cocktail was truly surprising. The two white wines that accompanied these dishes - an oaky French white with the crab and a dry French white with the salmon - were excellent.
the main attraction
Next came the main courses. My companion's steak had the characteristically wonderful flavor of US beef that I recall from growing up there, and it was cooked to a perfect medium, which allowed the fine quality and texture of the meat itself come through. The mashed potato side was indescribably creamy and thick. The secret, we were told, has to do with preparing the dish with an extra large amount of a very special butter. The accompanying wine was a deliciously robust, oaky red.
The duck, tender and filled with flavor, was a modern take on a classic check dish, and the almond crust on the potato croquettes made for a delicious twist on an old standby. A lighter, yet very flavorful, red was paired with the duck.
make room for coffee and dessert
For dessert, the pistachio ice cream was something to behold. And my companion's poppy seed dumplings were simply heavenly. A similar dessert can be found in many check pubs and restaurants, and I have always loved it. But the version prepared by Chef Kalina took it to a new level and was simply wonderful.
Our end-of-the-meal espresso was thick and robust, and throughout we were given professional service that was attentive but not overbearing.
I will definitely be adding Kalina Restaurant to my Prague Restaurant Guide as a recommended place for fine dining in Old Town.
Dlouhá 12, Praha 1
Tel.: (420) 222 317 715
Mon - Sun 12:00 - 15:00, 18:00 - 23:30
Prague Restaurant guide
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I am an American who has been living in Prague for two decades. After a long career in international finance, I left the business world to pursue other interests. I now work as a writer, mentor and guide to the city.